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Critical misjudgments cost Wallabies famous win


John Eales

Burst of speed ... Pat McCabe eludes the New Zealand defence. Click for more photos

Wallabies hold the All Blacks

The Wallabies surprise the rugby fraternity by halting the rampaging All Blacks' tilt at 16 straight wins with a gritty 18-18 draw in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images

One of the tributes at a mate’s 50th on Friday night suggested there was just one glass of wine between him being boring and being interesting – although it wasn’t clear who should be the one to drink the glass.

Not that it was such a choice between boring and interesting on Saturday night, but just one point on the scoreboard, rather than one glass, would have made the world of difference to either the Wallabies or the All Blacks.

Lithuania will breathe easily today as their record of 18 consecutive international victorie remains intact for the 18-all draw in Brisbane was enough to end the All Black’s 14-month, 16-match golden run.

This Wallaby team, while not given much chance in the lead-up, was not outplayed. When you are outmanned, pride will sometimes direct you to look for victories within potential defeat and judge your performance on metrics like courage, commitment and involvement rather than the scoreboard. But that is a haven for losers.

Wallaby pride, rather, was driven to focus on how they could beat their opposite man individually and collectively, which is what they largely did for about 55 per cent of the match.

But the Wallabies shouldn’t get too excited at thwarting the All Black’s shot at the record for it is an ultimately unhappy man that only gets joy from an opponent’s angst.

However, they should take heart from their performance and use it as a building block for growth. They should also take heart from the players who now know that the seemingly widening gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in the world is not unbreachable but now somewhat more reachable.

The hope is that an inexperienced team has just put a stake in the ground. Old hands like Nathan Sharpe and Tatafu Polota-Nau have delivered. But importantly, the new kids on the block like Michael Hooper, Ben Tapuai and Kane Douglas have signed on for a man’s job.

Yet before they can finally bridge that gap they must cut out their unforced errors. Great teams will force mistakes upon you, that’s to be expected, and the All Blacks are a great team. A big tackle, a missed lineout or poor scrum service will all happen when supreme pressure is applied.

What’s not tolerable are the unforced errors; a needless sinbinning, a dropped high ball or a box kick straight into touch. A five-minute period encompassing most of that probably cost the Wallabies the win and almost cost them the match.

The poor five minutes started at the 64-minute mark and it wasn’t just on-field errors. With a lineout five metres from their own line Hooper returned to the field after his sin-binning with Liam Gill and off came Kane Douglas.

These decisions are always subjective but this was questionable on two counts.

One, Douglas had been both belligerent and effective throughout, and two, to replace a key lineout forward on your own throw, on your own line, at such a crucial stage was risky.

The subsequently unsettled Wallaby lineout lost its own throw and the All Blacks soon capitalised through Dan Carter’s boot: 15-all. A few minutes later, after some loose lineout play by the Blacks, Gill showed that, while it mightn’t have been the right time to put him on the field, it was the right move.

From a turnover he carried the ball forward, only to have quality possession box-kicked out on the full by Nick Phipps. Subsequent play saw Adam Ashley-Cooper drop a high ball with no attacker nearby and Phipps, who had no other option, regathering from an offside position: 18-15 to New Zealand.

But to their credit, the Wallabies regrouped and, despite other mishaps, the ever-reliable Mike Harris evened the account. Though there was no further score, the most prominent distinction between these teams was illustrated by the closing frames.

With time up the Wallabies were first with prime position and both Harris and Kurtley Beale as options to kick a field goal to win the match. Neither took command as, rather than take their chance at victory, they tempted the referee to do so for them. He didn’t, and shouldn’t have, for the All Blacks didn’t err.

One minute later and 50 metres north the All Blacks clinically manoeuvred play such that Carter took his shot. He missed, but he wont die wondering. The Wallabies will never know. Just like my mate’s personality, it’s a fine line.

43 comments so far

  • gee, Nobody can also write. not the usual journo stuff. however, perhaps a deeper analysis by the author could be done on the options available for that glass of wine. maybe your friend would be even more interesting with one less glasses consumed?

    broken hill
    Date and time
    October 21, 2012, 10:26PM
    • and you know what, its stories like these that keep us levels below the all blacks. we didnt play well, we gave up 12 in the 2nd half and every time we got into position to score we dogged it. we kicked and did not chase, we kicked when we had over laps...but you and other so called experts keep excusing the team and we will never catch up.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:29PM
      • I must have missed something - but I really enjoyed the game... yes there were mistakes, but the intensity was certainly there and it was great to see the Wallabies push the All Blacks around, get in their face. Remember the First Bledisloe... after the game, the Wallabies getting 'chummy' with SBW and the All Blacks... Burkey and Growden were quite right pulling them up and bringing that issue forward. There was none of that on Saturday night. The Wallabies fronted up, gave to them and nearly brought it home... One giant step forward in my opinion. Well done Sharpey - great leadership.

        king sterling
        Date and time
        October 22, 2012, 8:39AM
      • Agree,it is amusing to see some so called Aussie experts get hard over a draw,getting excited about mediocrity.The Aussies could have had a historical win but they didn't! The Blacks could have broken the record for most wins but they didn't! The game was a major snore and both teams could be accused of trying not to lose rather than trying to win.As you stated rossco some aussie journos have to stop excusing the wallabies.Got the Bled Cup,Rugby Champ Cup,Super 15,in the end that is all that matters to the Kiwis and ABs.

        Date and time
        October 22, 2012, 10:21AM
      • Hang on a tick, whatever you and I thought of the game, are you really calling John Eales a 'so-called expert'?! On rugby?!!!

        Harvey K-Tel
        Date and time
        October 22, 2012, 11:30AM
    • Terrible standard of play both teams. Cant read anything much into this other than we should have won against the odds and for a number of reasons and we choked no field goal says it all draw good result for us . Not so for the Allblacks were not fired up for a dead rubber. They were probably at about a half mongrel.
      Was good to see the Allblacks cop it up front from time to time. That prop Foundmyweiner or whatever his name is is great for world rugby just because. Scotty should get a week or two for not liking McClaw very much.

      Date and time
      October 21, 2012, 11:43PM
      • The headline is telling us that there was almost a "famous win" for the Wallabies. Not sure how one measures the degree of fame of a win or victory, but I would have thought that the measuring of the fame could begin when the event actually happened -- which in this case it did not.
        In my stats books, there is a column for wins, one for losses and one for draws, but not one for "famous victories" -- not even an asterisk in the "win" column.
        Although if we're measuring "famous wins" that nearly happened, would the All Blacks have a better claim to this match than the Wallabies?

        Professor Rosseforp
        Date and time
        October 22, 2012, 9:04AM
        • A 'famous win' would be one where, no offence boys, the 2nd XV for the distantly second ranked team beat the 1st XV for the streets-ahead-of-the-rest-on-every-metric team. Perhaps your stats need some more depth.

          Harvey K-Tel
          Date and time
          October 22, 2012, 11:44AM
      • I am convinced that the leadership of Nathan Sharpe pulled the Wallabies through to a draw. Lets not forget that the All Blacks are a formidable side, and a great effort was required from a severely depleted Wallaby squad. Although the Wallabies had home advantage, Nathan showed his ability to influence the youngsters and guide the more experienced players to a near victory. His performance in this respect,was in my opinion, the difference between a loss and the resulting draw. The game itself ,had its mistakes ,but my mates and I were on the edge of our seats in the 2nd half hoping for a Wallaby win. (And all this...comes from me as a Springbok supporter...well done Wallabies!)

        port macquarie
        Date and time
        October 22, 2012, 9:35AM
        • not to mention a host of hometown decisions

          Date and time
          October 29, 2012, 9:20AM

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